The Hornchurch Aerodrome Historical Society have just taken possession of this piece of propeller reduction gearing casing which came from a Mk I Spitfire, GR-H P9373 of 92 squadron. This squadron were operating from RAF Hornchurch during the Dunkirk evacuation period and this aircraft was shot down during combat while operating as aerial cover for ‘Operation Dynamo’ in May 1940.
Spitfire P9373 was being flown by 24-year-old Sergeant Pilot Paul Klipsch, this was his first encounter with any enemy aircraft. The squadron were sent on patrol over Dunkirk on Thursday 23rd May 1940, they were ordered to fly at 7,000 feet with Klipsch flying lead on Red section as wingman to Squadron Leader Roger Bushell
They were dropped on and attacked from around 8,000 to 10,000 feet by Messerschmitt Bf 109’s and Bf 110’s, with Sgt Klipsch’s aircraft being hit during the combat by Gunther Specht, he was undoubtedly killed during the attack and his Spitfire went into a dive and crashed at Wierre-Effroy a small commune in the Pas-de-Calais area of France.
A major excavation of the crash site was carried out in June 1999 under the direction of a Channel 4 Television’s Time-Team Group along with aviation archaeologist Steve Vizard and Mark Kirby. A large amount of compressed airframe and Merlin engine were recovered and in February of 2000, a documentary was broadcast relating the story of Sergeant Paul Klipsch and the recovery of his aircraft.
Sergeant Klipsch’s body lies in the village churchyard of Wierre-Effroy, close to where his aircraft crashed. Found by the eleven-year-old son of the village undertaker, who returned with his father and brother to the crash-site and recovered Paul’s body and took it to the churchyard. With the assistance of the local Priest they buried Sgt Klipsch so as the Germans could not find the pilot. This “stranger” has never been forgotten by the villagers, his grave has been the focal point of their own ‘Remembrance Day’ ceremony ever since.